Mom always encouraged you to eat fish, saying it was "brain food," and modern science has once again proved mom right. Studies conducted during the last couple of decades showed that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are beneficial for heart health, and more recent studies have shown that fish oil does indeed keep the brain healthy. Fish also is proving to be a great ally in the fight against many of the diseases of aging.
"Mountains of evidence clearly show that omega-3 fatty acids enhance the health of the brain, as well as virtually every cell in the body," says Dr. Russell Blaylock, neurosurgeon and author of The Blaylock Wellness Report.
Adding fish or fish oil supplements to your diet can help protect you against:
Alzheimer's: Researchers found seniors whose diets were rich in omega-3 fatty acids had lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, a protein that circulates in the blood and is deposited as plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. The research, published in the journal Neurology, speculates that the less beta-amyloid in the blood, the less of the harmful protein that ends up as mind-robbing plaque in the brain. They discovered that one gram of omega-3 each day (the dietary equivalent of half a salmon filet each week) lowered the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood between 20 and 30 percent. The results were the same regardless of age, race, gender, education, and whether or not a person carried the APOE gene, a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
Type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis of 14 studies from the Harvard School of Public Health found that fish oil supplements lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil increase blood levels of adiponectin, a hormone secreted by fat cells that makes the body more sensitive to insulin. Previous research found that low levels of adiponectin are predictive of future development of diabetes — the lower the levels, the greater the risk. Adiponectin is also anti-inflammatory, and prior studies also found that it lowers the risk of heart disease.
Heart disease: Clinical trials have found that omega-3 fatty acids cut cardiac deaths by up to 52 percent. Study results have been so impressive that British health agencies urge docs to prescribe fish oil supplements for their patients who have had heart attacks in the previous three months unless they eat oily fish two to four times a week. The one-gram, one-a-day treatment will be prescribed for life.
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Arthritis: A British study shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce the progression of osteoarthritis and may even keep it from occurring. Scientists at the University of Bristol found that guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-3 oils developed 50 percent less arthritis than guinea pigs fed a standard diet. Lead researcher Dr. John Tarlton said that early symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as the breakdown of collagen in cartilage and the reduction in molecules that give cartilage its ability to absorb shocks, were improved with the use of omega-3s. Although the study used guinea pigs as subjects, Dr. Tarlton believes omega-3's would also fight arthritis in humans. "All of the evidence supports the use of omega-3 in human disease," he said.
Obesity: Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may mean lower obesity, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Newcastle. The researchers reported in the British Journal of Nutrition that omega-3 levels in people who are a healthy weight are 15 percent higher than in those who are overweight.
The scientists selected adults classified as being of normal weight, overweight, and obese. After the subjects fasted for ten hours, blood samples were taken to measure their omega-3 levels. In short, higher omega-3 levels meant lower weight and smaller waists and hips.
Prostate cancer: The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish could slash the risk of developing prostate cancer almost in half. The fish oil also reversed the deadly effect of a gene known to increase the risk of developing an aggressive inherited form of prostate cancer. Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found that men who ate "dark" oily fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, one to three times a month had a 36 percent reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. Those who ate the fish more than once a week slashed their risk by 57 percent.
The omega-3 oils also influenced a variant of the COX-2 gene, an inherited gene that encourages inflammation and is linked to a 500 percent increased risk for an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Eating a diet rich in oily fish wiped out the negative effects of the gene and eliminated the increased risk.
Fish can even protect your brain from too many cheeseburgers and French fries. A British analysis of 185 research papers found that high-fat diets interfere with the process of generating new nerve cells in the brain by increasing inflammatory chemicals. Fish oil, however, decreases production of the harmful chemicals and restores normal nerve growth.
Many experts suggest eating two portions of cold-water fish each week or taking a 1,000 mg omega-3 supplement three times a day. Cold-water fish include salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel. Chicken, nuts, flaxseed, beans, and olive oil also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
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